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Lady Godiva
Nude for the people of Coventry 

If Lady Godiva (circa 11th century A.D) attempted her famous ride today, she would be arrested for public indecency. What most people donít know is that her naked ride through the town of Coventry was done for social good; the good of the people. 

Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and husband to Godiva, was a man whoís many interested were loosely based in public acknowledgement. His lady wife was a good-hearted soul, constantly nagging her wealthy husband about the populationís misfortune.  

In 1043, the earl and his wife funded an abbey in Coventry in an attempt to better educate the clergy. The earl became quite immersed in public works, imposing tax after tax to help fund what he saw as needed facilities and services. 

Lady Godiva, in her own view, felt that the arts held some measure of culture for the people of Coventry, but failed to understand that the general population spent all of its time merely surviving. They didnít have the time or interest in the arts; their main focus being shelter, food and livestock in an effort to counter the continuously increasing taxes. 

Knowing the peasants cared little for aesthetics, the Earl reminded his lady wife that the ancient Greeks and Romans considered the naked body to be a thing of beauty and that the gods stood in favor of nudity as an expression of beauty. He agreed to stop the taxes (except on horses, a tax in place before his administration) if his wife would ride through the marketplace at midday in nude and glorious splendor, proving to the population that the nude body was a thing of beauty. 

Shocked, he listened as his wife agreed. 

On the appointed day, accompanied by two fully clothed women on horses, Lady Godiva rode through the crowded marketplace. No hair draped her shoulders. This bit of fiction was later put into the story by chaste clergy. She wore her hair plaited and pulled up, showing her naked splendor to all who cared witness it. 

As promised, her husband ceased his taxing and Godivaís ride brought greater prosperity to the town of Coventry. To this day, the administration uses the image of her atop the horse in their crest. Some say this is a tale of fiction, others find there is too much evidence to write it off as the work of imagination. 

Whichever is the case, Lady Godiva and her naked ride shows the passion with which she cared not only for art, but the people of her province as well.

 

Copyright 2002

 


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